Vocabulary in the Elementary and Middle School

By Hillman, Judith | New England Reading Association Journal, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Vocabulary in the Elementary and Middle School


Hillman, Judith, New England Reading Association Journal


Johnson, D. D. (2001). Vocabulary in the Elementary and Middle School. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 0 205 29862 1

While this is technically not an "activity" book, there are hundreds of ideas in this handy paperback for vocabulary study. Teachers in K-8 (and I believe some high school teachers) will find practical information, and those of us who delight in vocabulary study will be excited at the prospect of classroom use.

Dale Johnson, well known for his abiding interest and research in vocabulary as a critical component of reading comprehension, organizes his information into nine chapters followed by an index. Briefly, Chapter 1, "Two Million Words and Counting," introduces the complexity and the importance of vocabulary study. Chapter 2, "On the Tip of the Tongue: Vocabulary and Oral Language," focuses on oracy. Techniques for developing oral language are given. Chapters 3 and 4 shift from oracy to literacy. "So That's What It Means: Vocabulary and Reading" and ' Just the Right Word: Vocabulary and Writing" are both replete with teaching suggestions. From Semantic association activity (p. 47) and Using a thesaurus (p. 68), a classroom scenario is obvious.

Chapter 5, "Where Words Are Stored: The Dictionary and Other References," focuses on four kinds of dictionaries (general, bilingual, singlefunction, and single-topic) as well as electronic works. Teaching suggestions again ameliorate the discussion. Chapter 6, "Making Connections: Words Across the Curriculum," emphasizes vocabulary development in interdisciplinary, integrated curriculum projects. Chapter 7, "The Assessment of Vocabulary" tackles all-important issues of what to test, how to test, and why test. Problems in assessing vocabulary are numerous and clearly spelled out. In fact, more space is given to problems in standardized testing and statistical measurement intricacies than informal classroom tests. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with the beauty of the language, the elasticity of it, and again many teaching suggestions and opportunities for word play permeate the chapters. …

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